5 Photo Safaris for Viewing Wildlife in East Africa

Large game animals abound in this East Africa photo safari (Source: iStock / raisbeckfoto)

A photo safari in East Africa is considered the trip of a lifetime by professional photographers and amateurs alike. While many Wide World of Travel trips are well within the abilities of most solo travelers, time spent in East Africa is so experience-rich that we recommend the services of a licensed and experienced guide or agency. The five photo safari programs below provide the very best opportunities for high-quality large game animal photography.

See the Serengeti migration with Boyd Norton

Migrating wildebeest crossing a river (Source: iStock / KenCanning)
Migrating wildebeest crossing a river (Source: iStock / KenCanning)

Serengeti National Park is the best place in the world to view and photograph large game animals—and the best time to see these charismatic megafauna is during their annual migration. Photographer Boyd Norton has been traveling to East Africa for more than 30 years and has written 17 books (at last count) about this magical, though threatened landscape. With his unique and highly personal knowledge of the region, Norton’s “total immersion” photo safari expeditions into Serengeti National Park give amateur and professional photographers a unique opportunity to see hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebra, antelope, gazelles, and more as they head towards the rain-ripened grasses that ensure their survival. Trip proceeds benefit Boyd Norton’s Serengeti Watch nonprofit organization.

Experience Tanzania’s big game birthing season with Gustafson Photo Safari

A Topi antelope takes its first steps (Source: iStock / BruceBlock)
A Topi antelope takes its first steps (Source: iStock / BruceBlock)

The large game animals who survive the great annual migration instinctively return to familiar plains habitats to give birth. Accompanying them is an astounding number of lions, cheetahs, and other opportunistic big cats. Gustafson Photo Safari’s two-week birthing season expeditions provide a rare opportunity to see the tense interaction of predator and prey during a time that is crucial to the continued survival of all. Gustafson’s small-group photo safari trips to Ngorongoro Conservation Area routinely encounter hundreds of newborn calves and large prides of lions with as many as 25 members—including newborn cubs and their mothers. A birthing season trip like this is a lifetime ambition for amateur and professional photographers alike.

Follow the flamingoes of the Great Rift Valley with Soul of Tanzania

Flamingoes congregating at Tanzania’s Lake Natron (Source: iStock / cinoby)
Flamingoes congregating at Tanzania’s Lake Natron (Source: iStock / cinoby)

Flamingoes are happiest in huge gatherings—a fact that makes professional photographers happy as well. Soul of Tanzania’s “From Kenya to Tanzania with Love” tour tracks the the colorful lesser flamingo in East Africa’s portion of the Great Rift Valley. Millions of birds congregate in the hypersaline waters of Lake Bogoria and Lake Nakuru in Kenya and Lake Natron in Tanzania. These “synchronized nesting” opportunities make it harder for jackals, hyenas, and other predators to single out birds to target—giving the flock the best opportunity to raise the highest number of chicks to maturity. They also present an amazing photo opportunity—where else can you capture two million flamingoes in a single frame?

Step inside a baobab tree in Tarangire National Park with Nature Responsible Safari

Elephants in the shade of a baobab tree (Source; iStock / ilyaska)
Elephants in the shade of a baobab tree (Source; iStock / ilyaska)

The unofficial symbol of Africa, the baobab tree can be found in most parts of the continent. But nowhere does it grow taller or stronger than in Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park, where visitors quickly come to understand the baobab’s prominent role in indigenous African practices and beliefs. Nature Responsible Safari’s day trips and multi-day photo safaris in the park let photographers find some quality time with these sturdiest of trees. Tarangire’s baobab trees can grow to almost 40 feet in diameter and store some 30,000 gallons of water. Eager to tap into this treasure, thirsty elephants bore into the trees’ trunks, leaving hollowed-out cores big enough for whole groups of people to step into and gawk.

Search for snow leopards on Kilimanjaro with G Adventures

Kilimanjaro stands watch above the Marangu Route (Source: iStock / munro1)
Kilimanjaro stands watch above the Marangu Route (Source: iStock / munro1)

On the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, bountiful low-altitude populations of honey badgers, colobus monkeys, and other small animals give way to apparently barren upper reaches. Yet many climbers keep a watchful eye for big mammals near the peak—especially the snow leopard, immortalized by Ernest Hemingway in his classic story, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” G Adventures’ seven-day trek up Kilimanjaro’s Marangu Route takes trekkers to the 19,341-foot summit via the Kibo Hut. A short diversion leads to Leopard Point, where Hemingway famously reported seeing a frozen leopard lodged in the snow. While the author was left to ponder “what the leopard was seeking at that altitude,” you’ll like have plenty of gorgeous shots to take—even if you don’t spot a leopard on your summit push.